http://www.unesco.org/culture/en/ich/expo/

2007 Photo Exhibition “Living Heritage: Exploring the Intangible”

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Welcome to the virtual version of the exhibition, “Living Heritage: Exploring the Intangible

The virtual exhibition is an on-line version of the exhibition that displayed more than a hundred photographs of living heritage on the fences of UNESCO Paris from 12 April 2007 to 14 January 2008. From then on, this exhibition has been displayed on-line, as well as in other countries: China, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia and United Arab Emirates.

Virtual exhibition accessible to visually impaired people

Visually impaired people can browse the Internet using for instance refreshable Braille displays as featured here, and/or listening to speech synthesizers

Visually impaired people make up 2.6 % of the world population, according to the World Health Organization. The adoption of The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 13 December 2006 demonstrates the world’s concern with ensuring “accessibility to the physical, social, economic and cultural environment, to health and education and to information and communication”. At the same time, the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention gives great attention to ‘the need to build greater awareness, especially among the younger generations, of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage and of its safeguarding”. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Section’s virtual photo exhibition, “Living Heritage: Exploring the Intangible” offered a perfect opportunity to bring these two missions together to pioneer new approaches to increasing the accessibility of the Convention’s website and broadening the reach of UNESCO’s programmes in safeguarding living heritage.

A virtual photo exhibition on the internet opens up new technological possibilities to making visual content accessible to visually impaired persons. Provided that the content is correctly configured on-line, the visually impaired now have access through internet to an incredible amount of digital information interpretable by devices such as refreshable Braille displays, screen amplifiers or speech synthesizers. These technological tools are not just relevant to textual information: they can make photos and other images accessible at last to the visually impaired.

Screen copy showing part of a picture and its visual description

The Section of Intangible Cultural Heritage partnered with the Institut national des jeunes aveugles in Paris (INJA) to make the virtual exhibition “Living Heritage: Exploring the Intangible” fully accessible to visually impaired persons. Working together with INJA students, we addressed and improved the general browsability of the Intangible Heritage website. We also created visual descriptions of all of the photographs so that the visually impaired would have an experience comparable to that of other visitors to the virtual exhibition. Through these visual descriptions—read aloud to visually impaired visitors by their speech synthesizers or displayed on their Braille displays—they can now enjoy access to all of the content of the exhibition, increasing their awareness of intangible heritage and their enjoyment of the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

For more information about this initiative, please contact Ms An-Heleen de Greef or Mr Hugues Sicard.

Exhibition at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris

Photo exhibition, Paris

The exhibition presented more than 100 photos featuring oral traditions, traditional music, dance and theatre, social practices, rituals and festivals, as well as traditional knowledge and skills that communities and groups around the world receive from their ancestors and pass on to their descendants. The photos featured the 90 Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity proclaimed by UNESCO between 2001 and 2005 as well as other recent initiatives supported by UNESCO for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.

We wish to thank the communities concerned, the Permanent Delegations to UNESCO, as well as the researchers and institutions worldwide involved in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage for their kind cooperation, as well as the Government of Japan for their financial support to the original exhibition and to the initiative concerning accessibility.